12/22/05 — Wayne 4-H members helped storm victims

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Wayne 4-H members helped storm victims

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on December 22, 2005 1:46 PM

Wayne County 4-H'ers joined with other 4-H'ers across North Carolina to collect and distribute supplies to youths who were victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

4-H Helping Hands began when Wayne County clubs began calling Barbara Byers, the county's 4-H program associate, to ask how they could help.

"They saw on TV a 4-H Beanie Bear that had been pulled from the rubble in south Mississippi after the hurricane and they wanted to respond to that," she said.

"We joined with the state 4-H office to do various kits. Three of our local clubs held car washes and raised money to buy items for the kits. The community clubs also raised money to purchase items."

Wayne County youths put together five infant kits containing diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, toys and blankets. They also made 22 essential kits containing toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo and lotion. The youths put together two clover bags, which were backpacks with supplies for school aged children.

"Our 4-H'ers also made cards and wrote letters of encouragement and put them in the kits," said Ms. Byers.

There were also activity boxes for families and young people in shelters and in isolated areas without power. They contained supplies and lesson plans with activities for children and parents. They also contained 4-H coloring books.

Seven trucks were sent across the state picking up kits for Cooperative Extension Service and 4-H families in the Gulf Coast. The state collected a total of 3,355 clover kits, 2,958 essential kits and 575 miscellaneous kits, according to Ms. Byers. The total value was $137,760. And another $3,069 in cash donations was also collected.

Local 4-H'ers Jonathan Stutts and John Tart III went with the group to Mississippi.

"We started with press conferences in Raleigh and Charlotte to let people know what we were doing," said Stutts, state 4-H secretary/treasurer.

"Then we left to go to Mississippi and stayed the night in South Carolina. The next day we arrived in Starksville, Miss., and stopped at Southern Mississippi College to unload the items from the North Carolina trucks to Mississippi trucks to be distributed to several areas in that state."

Stutts said the North Carolina delegation met with a local 4-H group in Starksville and also the state 4-H leader. He said they told him all about the devastation in their state from the hurricane.

"They were surprised to see how much stuff we had collected here in North Carolina," said Stutts. "They were very grateful."

He said a lot of the stores were still closed so they had not been able to buy groceries and other items.

"It was amazing," Stutts said. "We weren't sure how it would turn out when we first started the project and weren't sure how much we'd be able to do as youths.

"A lot of times we don't feel like we can do that much being youths and to be a part of something like this was incredible."

Ms. Byers said the North Carolina effort was the largest relief effort that North Carolina 4-H has been involved in since World War II.

"We received things here from different states when we had Hurricanes Fran and Floyd," she said. "It was a need that people saw."